Sunday, July 11, 2010

When Fandom Goes Wrong

First off, I feel the need to announce that I am the proud owner of a vuvuzela:

Congrats to Spain, and Paul the Octopus for making their victory happen and all that. Time to ignore soccer for another four years!

Anyway, now for the actual post. In case you are one of the few people that aren't friends I met through fandom, well, I'm in it. It's silly, but it's always been an escape. Writing silly short stories, drawing pictures, and laughing at macros of animes when I was little, and bands when I got older, is my way of forgetting about the pressures of homelife, homework, and whatever bothers someone between the ages of 11 and 19. And while I have taken breaks from fandom and whatnot, I've supported it almost every step of the way. It's just fun, don't worry, I don't take it too seriously and neither should you, blah blah blah. But only now, eight years in, can I honestly see one of the largest issues in the system.

Fandom, at least in the fandoms I have actively been in, are based around male figures. And example of this would be my (embarrassing) first love, Yu Yu Hakusho:

A few people my age might remember staying up until God knows when to watch this show on Adult Swim back when Adult Swim was a slightly mature anime block on Cartoon Network. While it's a little low tech in terms of the art (it was made in 1990, so no computer graphics in this baby), it focused on a guy named Yusuke who died, but was able to come back to life provided that he investigated various supernatural cases. The show is an anime made for boys ("shounen", because for some reason my brain never let go of the lingo), and because of it,had a mostly male cast, even though the girls kicked major ass when they wanted to. While the show was not the most evenly distributed in terms of gender, whatever. When the fandom was active, it was definitely guy-focused. It was all about Hiei/Kurama, but at its core, there's nothing wrong with sexualizing two guys. However, there was a bit of a pattern within the fandom that I didn't really factor in at the time... the vilifying of the female characters on the show, without any reason other than the fact that they were getting in the way of the homoerotic joy. Most people didn't slash Yusuke all that much, and yet his girlfriend on the show was dismissed as a bitch and hated on. And, of course, when you're twelve and you don't really know all that much, you don't sit down and wonder what the hell is going on with this woman hating mentality.

Fandom behavior such as the one I interacted in with YYH way back when is alive and well in some areas. Female characters are in the way of "teh pr0nzzz!!!1" This applies to a lot of shows/TV/book fandoms. And while it's all fun and games for the most part, there's something particularly unnerving when you constantly hear women talk about how all the girls suck. No, girls don't have to like every single girl on a program. Boys don't have to like every single guy, either. But the vilification of the women in the fandom is depressing, and makes the people that do like the girls be a little awkward.

This actually liking the girls becomes problematic in slash-dominated fandoms. A lot of these fandoms (Okay, all of them if you factor in Rule 34) have fanfiction circles of some kind floating around. Which are pretty basic. People write stories based around characters and all that good stuff. While a lot of fanfiction writers would like to tell you they have as much integrity as a fanfiction writer can have, there is obvious playing the game in terms of the stories they write. Some communities will even outright say that heterosexual, most of the time canon, couplings are banned from communities. Uhm, ouch. What's worse is that femslash, or slash couplings of girls, is nearly impossible to find sometimes, only a viable option when the male characters become "gender bent", or have their sex changed for the duration of the story. And this is not to say that every single person you meet in fandom feels this way. Trust me, they don't. There's plenty of queer people that like girls as well and will write them in a positive light, or have them getting down and dirty with someone. However, they are the minority and will be the one that gets less readers and less reviews, which can depress fanfiction writers and make them reconsider writing girls into their stories.

Another issue that seems to arise in these slash-oriented fandoms is simply the lack of association with actually queer men. There is a general idea that these men are gay. That's it. The possibility of bisexuality is never discussed in most fics, and if the guy was in a relationship with a girl prior to meeting his "tru wuv!!11oneone", she was a cover up or what made the guy realize that he wasn't in love with not just her, but every woman that came before her. Because apparently every single guy that's ever boinked another guy has only liked guys.

There is also this stress of being a "top or a bottom." Which is all well and good. I've had this conversation with my guys-that-like-guys before. Whatever. But the projection of characterization based on top or bottom can hurtle out of control as well. Bottoms are feminine, wimpy, prone to being the victim of sexual assault, and tops are larger, more in control, and aggressive. There is no exceptions to this rule, unless it's specifically a kink to the fandom ("Oh, I'm feeling risky today... I want to read a story with the guy usually a bottom topping! Om nom nom ;)" People do prefer certain positions. But trust me, just because you want to take it doesn't make you a lily white guy that may be prone to being raped.

The final issue that arises in fandom is a problem that specifically arises in real person-related fandoms... sexism and homophobia. How can that be? you may ask. That's pretty understandable. How the hell can a fandom focused on the love between two dudes possibly have tendency of being offensive. But it does happen. While fanfiction should be about fantasy and fun, the wanting for real person situations to be, well, real, causes the fandom mentality to hurtle out of control. All the points that I made prior become particularly obvious. Let's take the dude on top of this paragraph for example. This is Kris Allen from American Idol. Yeah, sorry, more American Idol examples, sorry. It's the fandom I'm currently most involved in.

So Kris Allen is straight. He has a really cool friendship with openly gay Adam Lambert. However, fandom seems to be obsessed with this. What started off as very fun "OMFG THEY'RE SO ~MFEO", has become "HIS WIFE HAS DEPRESSION, HENCE SHE IS NOT A GOOD ENOUGH PARTNER FOR HIM... HENCE HE SHOULD FUCK ADAM." It singlehandedly exemplifies all the issues I have with fandoms in the past- vilification of women by means of having Katy, his wife, be a horrible partner based on the fact that she battled depression and has a vagina, any stories implying Kris is just friends with Adam get very few reviews and are viewed negatively, Kris is assumed to just be using Katy as a beard, because there's no fucking way that he likes girls in real life, and he definitely is a bottom, because he's small and clearly unable to be a top in any relationship whatsoever. What adds to all of this is that people collage images of him with a limp wrist, his hip jutted out, or repeatedly put up the gif of him snapping his fingers in a Z formation as "proof" that he likes men. Uhm. Okay. What started off as just a lulz here and a omfg there has become legit conspiracy theories. Which is just... sad. Yeah, I said it. It's sad. It's instilling stereotypes on gay men, which is upsetting when half the fandom is based around a gay guy that is trying to break into the music scene. It's reiterating that women are inferior and that men that are bottoms are inferior as well. And while a lot of people want to say that they're just joking around, at the end of the day, these fantasies do become a lot of the mentalities younger people (and older people) in fandom have.

At the end of these posts, I usually end with how the hell we can stop this. But to be honest, I don't fully know. I've decided to separate myself from fandom, keeping in touch with the friends that I made, but definitely not venturing too much farther. I guess you can say that it's a public resignation from my position as a fandom protector. Because there is a problem in the slash-focused fandoms and until people aren't afraid to say that there is something going on, it's not going to be fixed.

If you excuse me, I'm going to spend the rest of the day playing my vuvuzela and reading comments. Feel free to give me your input. Is fandom actually a problem? Should people care how the images of women and gay men are portrayed in these fandoms? Am I just a whiny sensitive kid that needs to toot her vuvuzela and get lost? Please, let me know.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ode to a Childhood Toy

So I was able to see Toy Story 3 at midnight Thursday night (or Friday morning?) and I'm so glad I did. I saw it next to a friend of mine I've known since second grade and promised that I would see the movie with them in high school. We did. It was absolutely amazing. In case you haven't read the bios on this blog, I'm 19 years old. I saw the first two in the movie theatre way back when, and I still revisit them on my VHS. When I was little, I convinced myself that while I was gone my Barbies, horse figurines, Power Rangers, dinosaurs, and the GI Joes I stole from my brother went on adventures together, much like Andy's motley crew of play things. As the third movie came to a close, I cried, like I do at most movies, but for different reasons.

I don't think there's many movie trilogies that literally grew up with its original audience. When the first movie came out, I was living a life similar to Andy. I was a little kid with a dog, a little sibling, and a bunch of toys playing out huge adventures in my head. As twelve years passed between the second movie and the third movie, I grew up. I was just in Andy's shoes last year, going off the college with a very old dog, a now-pubescent sibling, and a bunch of toys in storage, neglected in the corners of my room, or out on the curb. Sure, I kept the ones that had memories attached to them-a pink flamingo my dad bought me when he was stuck in a Florida airport on my birthday, Ugly Dolls because I still love them-but, I've been getting rid of the toys that are broken and sending anything that is still in one piece or has all its pieces together to various foundations or my attic.

There's something really bizarre about sitting in a movie theatre and seeing that the kid on screen that you identified with in a weird way was as grown up as you were by the end of the film. While I highly doubt that most of us would be able to be as selfless as Andy was at the end of the movie, us viewers that are 17-20something know very well what it's like to be in-between two versions of yourself- a high school senior and a college freshman-and be totally aware of it.

Like Andy, we all had That Toy. You know what I'm talking about. The one that is in every photo in your family's album. The one that your parents mention you toting around. The one your mom not only threw in some form of a washer on several occasions, but made sure to check the instructions so it wouldn't get damage. That toy was your best friend, especially when you really didn't know the word for it yet. For me, that was Brown Dog, a furry brown creature of no real breed with plastic brown eyes and suede paws. He was given to me via my mom at my baby shower, and I don't think he's left me since. He's endured millions of hugs, vacations across the eastern seaboard, and a few washings that resulted in his fur being matted and his stuffing isn't distributed properly. While Kimberly the Pink Ranger occasionally seemed as if she would replace him, she never did. He was the Woody to my Andy. Sure, he was low tech, kind of floppy, and legitimately older than me, but he was my Brown Dog.

When college ended up becoming more than just a fantasy of sorts, I initially decided that Brown Dog deserved a retirement. After serving 18 years as my best friend, he deserved to perch on my bed at home and not have to do anything for a long, long while.

I decided last second to bring Brown Dog. I thew him in a green cube with my posters and DVDs and brought him to Rutgers, where he lounged on my best, went on a free trip to Florida, and even got caught in a makeout session between me and my SO. But what's hilarious about the life of Brown Dog is that college gave him a comeback- people would go into my room and take him off his spot on my bed and on their head, or on their shoulder, or just gave him a hug. He's been tagged on Facebook and now has a fanpage which you should be a fan of. Brown Dog isn't exactly everyone's childhood toy, but he reminds them of that time.

The only thing I will never understand is how make believe, pretend, making up stories is so great and so cherished when you're little, and yet we can't play pretend unless we're doing kinky shit in the bedroom when we get older. Sure, it's probably not a good idea to jump around in your room and be like "I'm a fairy princess yayyy!", but that doesn't mean that you can't play pretend in your own way. Write something. Seriously, just write it. Put your pretend on paper. Hang on to your One Toy and hope to pass them down to someone, or just hang onto them. Be aware of your inner child, because if you take yourself too seriously, you're going to lose it. And that's what Toy Story 3 has taught me to embrace. Crazy, but true.

I'll write something more serious/commentary-based in a little bit. For now, just think about this. If you want, become a fan of Brown Dog on Facebook. Feel free to comment about your childhood friend :) Or even say what you think of the movie!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Donna Reviews Stuff: American Idiot

All right, so I was wondering if I should do reviews on this blog, and then I realized, fuck it: It's my blog. So I'm going to review something.

A friend of mine and I decided that we were going to see American Idiot. He's a Broadway kid, and I'm a fan of Broadway productions, but definitely a Green Day fan. A lot of people seem to need to disclaimer what kind of fan of Green Day they are at this point, but to be honest, I love Green Day. Dookie-era, Warning-era, American Idiot-era, I really don't care. I like the sound, I like their aesthetic, I like that they've grown up and while they sound hasn't necessarily, their content definitely has. I'm seeing them in August, and I'm super excited, along with AFI, which is my favorite band ever, and it's just exciting to be me right now, obviously.

Anyway, keep it in mind that this whole experience, when a Green Day fan, is ten times different from a kid that just wants to see a Broadway show and maybe knows a few Green Day songs.

American Idiot is playing at St. James Theatre. It's a very old school-looking theatre, but they made sure to add a punk rock feel to it. The walls in the entrance are covered in words and the doors are spray painted. The bar has ST. JIMMY written across it and when you look at the copious amounts of merch for Green Day being sold, you realize you're in a combination of a rock concert and a Broadway musical. Which is definitely what it is.

When the show starts, it's loud and abrasive. My friend winced, but I smiled. As "American Idiot" started, the cast was screaming the lyrics, while harmonizing at times. I loved it. These lyrics are not pretty. The music is arranged very similar to the original Green Day songs, and the band itself is mostly lead by a guitar, drum, and bass. There's occasional string instruments, but in terms of the music, it's definitely a rock show.

The story itself is very much like the album- a guy goes into the city trying to find something, he falls into the trap of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, and eventually grows up to be like everyone else. However, they decided to split the lead into three roles of sorts- Johnny, who flees into the city and goes through the temptation of St. Jimmy, a very hot, androgynous embodiment of heroin addiction, Will, a guy that decides to stay home and falls into entire ennui with his girlfriend Heather, and Tunny, a guy that escapes into the city with Johnny only to enlist into the army. While it was sad, and very true to life, to see how these three options in life do lead you back home, and possibly a little broken, I do wonder if Will's storyline was needed. His relationship with Heather is constant throughout the story, but we honestly don't know anything about the two of them. Most of their scenes are pantomimed over the music and only really becomes relevant when Will sings "Nobody Likes You." Tunny's storyline is very similar to a Hair-type storyline of boy tries to be part of counterculture, boy ends up taking conventional route, boy ends up conflicted, however, it does remind the general audience of the constant war that is going on, even though it's not on the home turf. However, his relationship with The Extraordinary Girl and his dream sequence to the song that is her namesake is a total wtf moment with a princess Jazmine costume.

Seriously, costume designers, there ain't anything punk rock about this outfit.

Once again, for whatever reason, this storyline isn't explained very well, either, in terms of the relationship between the two characters. Why is she such an extraordinary girl, aside from the fact that she's in love with a soldier? What's the image she wants to sell to anyone willing to buy?

Johnny's storyline is naturally more thought out, and the lack of connection between him and Whatsername makes more sense. He's in a constant haze of heroin during most of the production, and does not realize how awesome she is until she's gone. But when a very sexy, willowy guy you're imagining named St. Jimmy is dancing around who can blame you? Uh, hello? I have never seen Tony Vincent in my life, but I will totally own up that I want to do indecent things to him with his asymmetrical hair and killer vocals. He hits an Adam Lambert glory note during it and just. Wow.

The rest of the class is very talented. Their vocals are great, and they definitely took a note from Green Day in the way they sang. The choreography is not great, but it's very headbang-y, and people throwing themselves into the music. There are some notes taken from Green Day when they perform, as well. When Johnny makes the sign of the cross during the lyrics of "To a hymn called faith and misery" during "Holiday" I smiled a little, remembering Billie Joe doing it multiple times before. Of course, because of these references, and notes in choreography, this is definitely not a show that you want to want to see unless you're a fan of Green Day circa American Idiot. The plot is not the greatest thing in the world. They definitely could have detailed certain things better, and maybe even considered adding more conversation, or taking away plot lines when writing it for stage. Of course, with being a fan of American Idiot with a runaway imagination, you may sit there and go "But I thought this song meant this D:!" But hey, it's totally worth it. Plus, with a lottery for tickets only 27 dollars, and then partial view seats for 37 dollars, it's very easy to see this show for cheap.

Overall, it's a decent show. If you like Green Day, you should check it out. If you're not, I'm not really sure you should get in on it. But hey, if you're ready for a punk rock show on Broadway, go for it. Just be ready for a rock show that's better than Tommy, with a lot of kids not afraid to use fuck.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go listen to Green Day and party like it's 2003. I'm seeing Adam Lambert on Saturday, so if people like me reviewing stuff, I may end up doing one for that show. Let me know what you think of this show if you've seen this, of course!

Friday, May 28, 2010

An open letter to Glee:

Dear Glee,

Hey, I see you're doing really, really well. Your ratings are crazy right now, and you're making yourself into a real brand. You've sold out concerts on your tour and you've been able to decimate the iTunes charts every week when you release new covers of various pop tunes that American Idol can only dream of getting the rights to- "Bad Romance?" Hells yeah. "Don't Stop Believing?" More like don't stop playing that song on my iPod. "Somebody to Love?" Way to prove me wrong with the whole "No one can cover Queen ever!" viewpoint.

Then why is it that half the time I'm watching you, I want to personally smack all the writers on the show? Why is it that every week I tune in, only to want to kick you in the mouth? Is it because Mercedes had an eating disorder for half an episode? Or maybe because the plotholes about Quinn's living situation were wider than her maternity clothes? Or maybe because Finn constantly teeters between decent human being, to airhead, to insensitive jackass, to guy strutting in Lady GaGa-esqueware over the course of one episode?

While these are all obviously issues with you as a show, I realized the real issue I have with you is a member of your cast, Kurt.

Sure, Kurt has his moments of epicosity, mostly featuring his dad. I was sniveling like a baby when his father not only gave Finn a verbal smackdown in the last episode, but remembered to compliment Kurt on his fabulous room designing skills. When Kurt sang his heart out with his name behind him in lights, I swooned. I even happy danced when I found out insider scoop about Kurt eventually acquiring a boyfriend sometime down the line, but there's something about Kurt that just pisses me off.

Maybe it's because you're falling into the Degrassi Trap. For people that don't know, Degrassi: The Next Generation is a Canadian import that was fall of awesome up until the characters graduated from high school and they tried to replace it with new kids that I can't stand. In its earlier seasons, it was pretty much amazing and handled serious topics- from self mutilation, to school shootings, to STDs-with a weird sense of realism and a little humor here and there.

It had a primary character that was gay, as well, named Marco. Marco was pretty all right for the most part. His storylines were interesting and epitomized a gay boy coming of age in high school. However, the issue with Marco was that all of his storylines went back to him being gay. Oh, Marco is trying to run for class president, but oh God! The girl that eventually ends up being a lesbian is threatening to out him! Marco likes a boy, but he's just recently realized he's gay, what should he do? Marco wants to come out to his family, but he's scared! Eventually, the plot lines petered out into nothing. Kurt's storylines are already beginning to have the gay undertones. Mercedes has a crush on Kurt, but Kurt comes out as gay! Kurt is harassed at school, because he's gay! Kurt has an issue with Finn, because Finn calls things faggy and Kurt is offended!

While Marco's storyline eventually crashed and burned, one thing that Degrassi seemed to do right was that Marco's sexuality was never confused with his gender. Marco liked guys. He was a guy. Sure, he was fashionable, but he was always a guy and referred to himself as such. He was able to be a great connector to the entire cast, hanging out and getting along with pretty much everyone, from my favorite goth girl Ellie, to queen bee Paige, to go-to guitar player Craig, however, no one doubted that he was a guy doing all this connecting. In you, Glee, there seems to be this constant flipping between Kurt being a resident girl or a gay- particularly when the show constantly needs to split the club into boys vs. girl competitions. For example, in the Madonna episode, Kurt proclaimed that he was the girl of the group when the guys were brainstorming ideas. However, in the GaGa episode, he joins the girls as an army of little monsters, which results in Schuester telling the boys to ~express themselves in their own way, by performing in Kiss makeup. Because, obviously, that's the way to counteract the GaGa infecting the Glee club. What gives, Glee? Kurt's a boy. If anything, shouldn't he be using his penis for the greater good and telling the boys to get over their fear of GaGa and embrace her kookiness? Maybe I just really, really wanted to see Puck wearing a thunderbolt over his eye or something, but I feel as though the need to have the girls and Kurt vs. the boys a little ridiculous.

Of course, we need to point out that you're not the second coming. You're a silly show that has a lot of elements of a fucking musical, for God's sake. However, it can't be denied that your fanbase is rampant. And while that's good for your ratings, it makes it nearly impossible for you to be dissected sometimes. No one is sitting down to wonder why Kurt is just not making sense sometimes, nor is anyone allowing other people to voice their opinion about it. And while I do understand that you're not supposed to be a showcase in queer theory, you have to realize that you have a lot of power over your fans and you can't make stupid plot decisions because of it.

How can you fix this? Well, how about you stop making every episode be guys vs. girls. While gender is obviously an important part of life, you really need to ease up on it most of the time. And how about you make Kurt be a guy. Hopefully, the fact you're giving him a boyfriend will help, provided you don't make him the "girl" of the relationship, whatever that means. Also, could you please, please, please not have all of Kurt's issues be related to being gay? He's a boy and he's going through awful high school things, he just so happens to be fashionable and like boys. He can obviously like men and state it, I'm not saying that's wrong, but I am saying that all his plots shouldn't focus on his sexuality. He's got so much potential, and it's obvious that it's being wasted on coming out plotlines/trying to be straight plot lines/Finn's "faggy blanket" incident. I won't say I have faith in you Glee, but I'd love to see if you could prove me wrong.

Some love,

PS: I'm totally watching you when you go up on Hulu. I will admit to that.

PPS: I'd love to hear your comments about Kurt, Glee, or about how season four of Degrassi: The Next Generation was the best thing everrr.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Miseducation of Adam Lambert

Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the end of an era.

American Idol is officially losing its vice grip on pop culture. Their ratings are slipping to a point that Dancing With the Stars is taking over the number one spot in terms of viewers (or at least viewers with those weird scanner boxes.

Obviously, the producers are trying to save the sinking ship. It's very logical. They're getting mentors that, while people may hate them, are relatively current- Miley Cyrus and Usher come to mind-and now they're going to get Adam Lambert.

Of course, if you haven't heard me fangirl about this guy already, Adam Lambert is last season's runner up and one of the few contestants that has been able to be a game changer. His performances always resulted in hitting notes people didn't know were possible, stylistic approaches that resulted in him owning the song, and being able to have fun with it. Of course, his high notes and his theatrics did polarize the crowd- some people said that he wailed too obnoxiously, others said that he was a big flaming homo that should not be on a family program, whatever. He made it to the finals and as hard as I tried to vote for the first and only time in my life, he didn't win. Adam sort of got the last laugh, for lack of better terms: He got the cover of Rolling Stone, and Details, as well as an album that debuted at number three on the Billboard charts. He's planning a summer tour and has number one singles in Japan, Canada, and all over Europe. He isn't quite taking over the world just yet, but hey, neither did Kelly Clarkson the first album.

Of course, when news got out that he was the mentor, a lot of people were pissed. American Idol has never had a mentor be one of its past contestants, even though some of them are doing very well in the music industry (Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, and yeah, Kelly Clarkson come to mind). Having a mentor that hasn't had a number one single yet, when they do have a small group of talented contestants to mentor instead, does seem a little odd. A lot of people jumped to conclusions- They assumed that American Idol didn't ask past contestants to possibly mentor, or whatever. No one has details on what went down in terms of getting Adam to mentor. However, a brief run through the situation proves that minus Kelly Clarkson's strained relationship with Idol, the other people were most likely too busy to do the gig, should they have been asked. That and Adam is currently in LA taking some down time before he goes on tour in the summer. He also has a remix EP that has come out this week (get it on iTunes, if only for the song "Voodoo", a super sexy, slick b-side). So the idea of Adam being a mentor is convenient for everyone involved.

While this would be simple enough if it was any other musician, it just isn't. I'm kind of shocked I have gone as far as I have minus the album cover saying anything that pertained to his sexuality. In the long run, it shouldn't matter, however, it sort of means everything in the pop music world.

Adam Lambert, in case you have lived under a very large rock, is gay. He was on the American Music Awards in November and did a super sexual performance that resulted in people complaining to ABC and a pseudo ban from the station. A lot of backlash still lurks because of it. It's not even about the fact that he hit bum notes (which is what I personally had an issue with), but the whole "Adam Lambert did something wrong on TV. Think of the children. His homosexuality is way too much." The whole situation was so messed up, GLAAD didn't even take his side (but then they did... and then they kinda didn't? But then they did again and got him as a performer for their award show so I guess we're all right? Why is my relationship with watchdog groups like I'm in high school?).

But anyway, according to the media for the most part, people were over the AMA performance. Well, so we thought. When news of his mentoring came out, many people turned it to "What has Adam done lately? Did controversial shit at an award show and red carper appearances?" Which is kind of silly. He's appeared on TV a lot for various performances, from The Early Show, to the talk show circuit, to Dancing With the Stars (which was live, so suck on that, media). The only reason why he was kind of MIA in the US was because he's been overseas promoting and getting number one singles like a boss. Of course Europe and Japan likes our gay singer import. What people seem to forget is that Adam is a theatre kid, and a damn good one at that. He knows how to give stage presence and how to be well known, whether it's for good things or not... something that this season full of very quiet singer songwriters need on American Idol, a type of musician that may be pretty safe (see Kris Allen), does not necessarily mean that they're the most successful as American Idol winners (While his single is still living like it's dying, his album sales aren't). Disclaimer: I like Kris Allen. Please don't crucify me for my last statement.

However, this whole entire incident, which should be simple (American Idol needs a mentor that isn't Quentin Tarentino, oh hey, Adam's available), isn't. Enter a quick interview on Entertainment Weekly with American Idol's executive producer Ken Warwick. When asked by the interviewer Do you think having Adam Lambert come in this week is going to shake things up and infuse the show with that added bit of drama that he generally manages to bring to the screen?, Warwick replied with this little gem:

I sincerely hope so. Because the guy is an incredible talent, and he had an incredible following. And it kind of upsets me that at the moment he’s not doing quite as well… [Pauses.] I don’t know what possessed him to do what he did at the AMAs, but he’s still struggling to live it down. And everybody says to me every week, ‘When are you gonna bring back Adam?’ They want to see him as he was. And hopefully we’re gonna do that for him this week, and we can start putting him back firmly where he belongs, as a major star. Because the guy is an incredible talent. He genuinely is. And it kind of breaks my heart to see someone with that much talent struggle a bit. So hopefully we can do back for him as he can do for us.

Okay, I'll take off my cray cray Adam Stan goggles for a second. I will admit that Adam's not ~taking over the world by storm. He's nowhere near as close to the level of sales and presence that Carrie and Kelly have, but at the same time, this theory is sort of irrelevant. While all three come from the same show, they are not the same in terms of fanbase and where they stand in the industry. It's like comparing three kids that go to the same school. Sure, they have the same classes, but one of them might be a cheerleader, another might by a video game nerd, and the other might be a theatre kid. Actually, when you break them down to their genres, Kelly is a poppy girl with a little rock infused sometimes, Carrie is country, and Adam is glam and dance music. Those three genres are not exactly the most similar genres, which result in different fanbases and different types of record sales. Plus, you have to point out that while we live in the twenty-first century: Adam's a gay man. Not only is he a gay man, but he's one of the first musicians to be on a major record label and from the start be open about it. Sure, Elton John is gay. We all know that. But like hell he was out about it at first. While there are a lot of rumors about Kelly Clarkson's sexuality, she sings about guys. She sings heteronormal, safe, music that the general public likes. Adam's lyrical content, though mostly safe, is definitely not about girls, once directly refers to a guy, and another time is very cheeky about the whole thing (Please see "Sure Fire Winners" lyric "And all the girls in the club wanna know/Where did all their pretty boys go?").

However, in terms of Warwick saying that Adam is "struggling" sounds silly and implies that he's trying to do Adam a favor, while saying that fans are requesting for him to make an appearance. So what does this mean, Warwick? Is it Adam that's struggling or is it your show that is?

Another issue I have with this statement has got to be the "firmly putting him back in his place" part. Okay, we all want to see Adam succeed. But with the disdain toward his behavior on the AMA performance, the implication of Adam being in whatever place that Warwick wants him to be is unsettling. The implication that Adam has to change and fit whatever standards Warwick has for him is slightly unnerving. Statements and comparisons have proved over and over again if a girl did a performance such as the AMA performance, she wouldn't have gotten in very much trouble at all (and maybe-gasp!-even got reprimanded for the real issue with the performance, the vocalization of the whole thing). Adam is a combo breaker, and because of it, even the show that brought him to TV screens everywhere doesn't know what to do with him.

Will Adam become an international superstar? He probably has a better chance at it everywhere else, but his home country. The fact that the US does not know how to handle Adam and his presence in the music world proves that while he is very talented, and people know that, it is hard to market an openly gay singer in a world in which propositions taking away his section of the population's rights away. And as for him being a mentor? He will probably do well. No, I don't think he's going to tear someone apart and make them cry, but I honestly believe that if Miley Cyrus could do it, fuck it, so can Adam. It's just disheartening how a TV show, which is supposed to be about, well. Fun, I guess, has become a social commentary for the world and its views toward nonconformist behavior in the music industry and society in general.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

If My Father Sent Me to Old Rutgers, Does that Mean My Mom Was in the Kitchen?

In case you couldn't tell, I go to Rutgers. It's a pretty old school, one of the first to be established in the United States, to be exact. With this old age comes a very old Alma Mater that is sang at the end of many sports competitions. The lyrics are so old, you can tell that they're dated in the opening lyrics, which are May father sent me to old Rutgers/And resolved that I should be a man. Thankfully, Rutgers allows more than just guys now, and about fifty-three percent of the school is female-identified.

Rutgers is really well known for its diversity, in fact, your application asks you to write an essay and inform the school about how you will add to it as a student. It makes sense. Rutgers has well known departments that range from gender studies to pharmacy, history to biology, philosophy to engineering. Artsy kids, frat boys, science nerds, and hipsters eat in the same dining halls and live on the same campuses. It's not always harmonious, but it's certianly functioning.

Another part of campus that is particularly unique is Douglass College. Douglass College is an all-girl's program that specializes in the uniting and strengthening of women and their ability to be leaders in the world. The dissolving of all the campuses at Rutgers has resulted in Douglass girls to be a part of the Rutgers community, even though they are allowed perks such as all-girl housing, extra advisers, and required courses with names such as women's leadership.

For some reason, whether it's college, or it's high school, or it's just society in general, being unique commonly results in flack from the rest of the population. I vividly remember that while I was walking through Douglass to my, er, women's and gender studies course last semester, I saw that someone wrote in chalk "Where the feminists live" underneath the Douglass seal on the side of a pathway. There's also the assumption that every Douglass girl is a lesbian (which is sadly not true). Most people complete the Douglass girl stereotype with the fact that every Douglass girl is a crazy, man-hating, bitch.

This image of Douglass girl resulted into a hot mess on my Facebook feed when the DGC (Douglass's student government) announced that the alma mater should be changed to no longer have the male-oriented lyrics.

I'm sure, being known as a lesbian feminist occasional bitch, I'm sure a lot of people assumed that I was pro-lyric change. However, as a history major, I say no way in hell should the lyrics be changed. While, yeah, the lyrics are definitely aimed toward men, you can't deny that it shows the school's age, in a good way. Alma maters are based in tradition that may not always be politically correct. The best way to avoid these kind of issues, because they always do come up, is to simply do things with gender equality in mind.

While going through comments, I've realized that most people, even Douglass students, don't really agree with the alma mater change, and most of this has been made up by the DGC. The DGC's opinion does not necessarily reflect the rest of Douglass campus. However, most people don't realize this, which has resulted in a lot of anger toward Douglass girls in general. I've seen offensive terms be thrown around, ranging from bitches, to cunts, to even taunting them with phrases such as "If Douglass is so progressive, why don't they allow guys in their program?"

It's interesting how a debate about an alma mater become so violent. It's okay to be against the alma mater change. I would even contemplate going up to the DGC and saying, "Hello, we all got bigger things to worry about in the women's rights movement." We should be focusing on the parts of campus that get so dark girls are afraid to walk around at night out of fear of getting raped. We should promote awareness of not just women's rights, but even people that don't fit the gender binary. We should also try and figure out how to make terms like feminist not be used as a weapon, but as a good thing.

While the DGC has brought the alma mater-related issues upon themselves, the violent threats and terms aimed at Douglass campus on a whole is not their fault. The only reason why terms like lesbians, feminists, and dykes are used as derogatory toward Douglass kids is because of the lack of education amongst many students in gender studies.

Douglass girls are required to take women's leadership courses. They learn to overcome obstacles and also learn gender theory along the way. In other Rutgers programs, students are allowed to take classes such as Women in Culture and Society-a 101 class on women's and gender studies-to knock out interdisciplinary requirements. This class can do wonders to people- yesterday we had an intelligent discussion about reproductive rights, which is something that I know for a fact we could not have done two months earlier. The people in the class have grown a lot in the semester. But while we've learned not to be scared of terms such as feminism, queer, and abortion, most people aren't. Because of this, the image of women speaking up in most situations, their opinions become disregarded and dismissed as the opinion of bunch of stupid cunts/dykes/feminists.

But what can the campus do to fix this? Well, we are a research university. Actually looking up the words you want to use can help. Don't call people feminists in a derogatory sense. You probably are one yourself. Realize that the issues of one part of a group doesn't necessarily represent everyone else. Not everyone that's a Douglass girl is for the alma mater change. And if you are mature enough to acknowledge that you need to be more educated in this field, and get credit for it, check out one of the women's and gender studies courses on campus. It'll make you sound less stupid when these kind of school dramas happen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Queer Bro Code

I think I can make a blanket statement about this blog: you all have friends-that-are-gay. Or lesbian. Or bisexual. Or transgender. Or just some branch of the queer community. And this is obviously not a bad thing. Particularly because one of those friends-that-are-lesbian is writing this thing.

Society in general, at least in the US, is at a strange point in time. A lot of men are coming to terms with the word "bromance", or, according to Urban Dictionary (I know, my sources are awesome), "a highly formed friendship between male friends." This type of relationship has been exemplified in Hollywood, particularly with the film I Love You, Man, in which a guy that has never really had a guy best friend acquires one while on a mission to find a best man for his wedding. If you haven't seen it, you really should. Just saying. While this movie is not particularly revolutionary, it has certainly exemplified the changing times and attitudes about two dudes caring about each other- not in a romantic way, but in just a friend kind of way that most people assumed could only be attained by by straight women, or maybe a straight woman and a gay man.

Now that bromances are okay, and girlmances (I guess that's the term?) have always been acceptable, it's now time for society to discuss the dynamic of straight people and their gay friends. Which, according to the New York Times, can get crazy complicated. Its introduction discussed the relationship between American Idol runner up Adam Lambert, who is gay, and winner for that season, Kris Allen, who is straight. If you haven't really listened to me talk about these two-affectionately called Kradam-here's a primer: Adam and Kris were roommates in the Idol mansion and Adam, obviously able to tell that Kris was attractive, had a little crush on him. However, he was able to have a perfectly functioning friendship with Kris and they are obviously forever going to have a bond as an American Idol final two. New York Times, and a lot of other people, have applauded Kris for apparently overlooking Adam's flamboyance and what is apparently his faults as a gay man that had an attraction toward a guy that he knew wasn't going to lead him anywhere.

I'm not particularly sure of the sexuality of the article writer of this story, but the vibe that I got throughout it is that straight guys sacrifice so much being friends with gay men. They apparently put up with a lot of the possibilities of having a difficult relationship and the fact that they may lust after someone.

Little does the heteronormal world is pretty burdensome sometimes when they interact with us queers, too. Perhaps New York Times should have thought about making an article about the queer community and how we put up with a lot of things for our straight friends.

Keep in mind, that I absolutely adore my straight friends. They're awesome in their own unique way. However, while I know that my friends are heterosexual, I don't exactly use them as a novelty item. I don't run around proclaiming that I'm hanging out with "my straight friends." You guys are just people. I love you, but seriously. I know that the queer community's pretty interesting, but we still aren't novelty items. You can't collect us all. I understand that, especially when you're straight, you kind of feel compelled to prove yourself as a liberal-minded person, and almost need to collect people of various backgrounds to prove your difference. It's tempting to just mash all your friends together based on their identities- your queer friends, your black friends, your Asian friends, your biracial friends. But honestly? When you say that-when you call Adam "the gay one" and Kris "the straight one"-you're putting us in some sort of category we don't always want to be in. Okay, we get it, we might even shout it: we're here, we're queer. But when we're hanging out with our friends, we don't particularly need to go to pride parades and hang out in clubs. We actually like the same things that you do- be it shitty reality TV, or dancing in the rain, or maybe the feeling of wearing a warm fuzzy sweater. But we don't need to be known as a gay person that feels this way.

For example, the whole straight girl/gay guy dynamic. Okay, so there's a few stereotypes that are occasionally true in the gay community- a lot of gay men are in the art world. We can't deny it. A lot of guys like fashion and occasionally get pedicures and like Lady GaGa. But what straight people don't realize is that some gay guys just want to throw a hoodie, not even touch their feet, and not enjoy Lady GaGa (I know, that's hard to imagine that any person doesn't like GaGa, but it happens). However, girls feel the need to search for their gay and when they find it, they want to force their ways into their social life. Photos get taken, Facebook friend requests occur, and a lot of dialogue that results in, "Oh my God, my friend is gay, how cool is that?" But little do they know is that they're enforcing stereotypes that they idealize as an insta-best friend and don't even realize that it might not apply for some people, and they may be awesome people outside of it.

This idea of stereotyping can also be disastrous in terms of straight girls/lesbians. For some reason, we're not considered fun, because we're supposed to be these tough bulldykes that don't want to go to the mall. O, I'm sorry you feel that way? Contrary to popular belief, girls that like girls can be pretty all right. But for some reason, only Ellen Degeneres can be a fun lesbian, and the rest of us are just kind of angry at the world girls that like girls. But, to be honest, I've been able to surround myself with awesome straight girls that look past the whole "Oh, you like girls" part. They're all amazing and supportive and I absolutely adore them. But that doesn't mean that the idea still exists.

The dynamic that I've had the most interaction with, seeing as though I mostly hang out with these people, and I'm a lesbian myself, is the straight guy/lesbian dynamic. They dynamic is very similar to the straight girl/gay guy dynamic in the sense that the girl is attached with a lot of expectations. As a lesbian, I'm basically considered a "bro", for lack of a better term. I'm supposed to be able to play video games, talk about girls, and give them insight into the lesbian world. But, in all honesty, that's exhausting. I'm not the expert of the lesbian world. And don't be shocked when I'm looking for the same exact thing you're looking for, either. I'm not the spokesperson for the lesbian world, either. What I'm looking for in a girl might not be what other people are looking for, either. And that gets pretty frustrating. I don't look at my guy friends and expect them to be the representatives of the straight community. These expectations ruin relationships and just make me bummed out of my mind when talking to people.

So what have we learned today? Queer people are like everyone else. They're pretty fun times in general. If people would stop constantly categorizing them in situations that are irrelevant to sexuality, we could all get along a little easier.

Here, have a photo of GaGa cookies for your time:

If you want to say anything, please leave it in the comments.

BTW I do not own any of the photos featured in this post. I hope they amuse you nonetheless.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Status Update 101

I've had a Twitter for over a year now. I only got one, because a lot of my friends from Livejournal started to get them. I liked the idea of being able to just have a site that is basically status updates, so I didn't have to read ridiculously long blog posts to figure out what my friends were up to. I also liked that a lot of bands/celebrities/whatevers were getting them, too, so I could know what AFI was up to in their vague updates about their upcoming album. Then newstations began to be aware of it, and proceeded to tell people about the site, resulting in even my little brother getting an account (awkward). But, whatever. It's a lot of fun and I've gotten Adam Lambert's bassist (the guy that made out with him on national television) to say that he was a free bitch.

After a year of tweeting, I've gotten pretty good at it. I can put quite a bit of emotion in 140 characters. I'm not always brilliant (I have over 6,000 tweets, I had to have flopped sometimes), but I know how to update and not be obnoxious or at least to a point that I've lost all my followers. What's cool is that this talent extends into your Facebook status update abilities. I will suggest not linking your Facebook and your Twitter together, because your nerdy internet life that consists of you reading fanfic about American Idol contestants can and will be revealed. And I can also give you suggestions on how to make a decent Facebook status!

I know what you're thinking: Why the hell do you have the authority to tell me how to update my status? Well, honey, I'm blessed with an extensive internet life. I'm suffering for my digital art so you don't have to. So come on and sit in Ma(ma) Donner's lap so she can give you some tips on how to make status updates that people won't bitch about while they're stalking your profile:

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1. Everyone Poops
A lot of people hate on tstuatus updates, because they don't like "reading about what a person had for breakfast." Guess what, bbs? We all do. Writing about the mundane is pretty unnecessary. We all get up in the morning, make our way for an AM pee, go to the kitchen and eat breakfast, then go off to school/work. The only time you should status update about this is if you do something out of the ordinary. If you woke up at four pm and missed all your classes, that's pretty impressive and status update-worthy. If you tried to pour out your cereal and your little sister's gerbil fell out of it, that's kind of status update worthy and picture worthy, so get that shit on your mobile uploads. If your school is under a bomb threat and you need to get your bad checked, that counts for an update, too (please see the example above). Another good one is if you miss the bus, which leads me to number two...

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2. Schadenfreude is alive and well.
Even though we're a society constructed on Lifetime movies and Hallmark cards, we love to see people fall flat on their face. Why else would there be those weeks worth of American Idol auditions, a loud sound of laughter when an actor flubs their lines on stage, and videos on Youtube dedicated to old ladies falling? We like to watch people fail. As long as you can handle the thought of everyone from your baby cousin that's way too young to have a Facebook to your best friend laughing at your misfortune, update about it. Get an automatic door closed on you? Update. Fall on a really hot girl? Why the hell not? Step in dog shit? Hey, that's considered good luck. And before you ask, I've done all of these things and stauts updated only the first two. Onward to number three...

[I don't have a plus one to call myself out on lolol]
3. No one gives a shit about your +1
Look, we're all really happy that you've found someone. Honest. Society has taught us to be on a constant watch for someone else to spend our life with, and you did. Hooray. Update your relationship status to "in a relationship." I might even like the status if I approve of your significant other. But for the love of God, don't constantly update about it. No one gives a shit if you're going to "spend the day with my boo <3333" Ew. Gag me. And no one gives a shit if you're "celebrating my three week anniversary with my sweetheart xoxoxo" That's not an anniversary, sweetheart. I popped the word into and go this:
the yearly recurrence of the date of a past event: the tenth anniversary of their marriage.

So ultimate, your one month anniversary? Doesn't make sense.

I should, however, point out that I'm not saying that you should not talk about your significant other at all. That's not true. Anniversaries (at least the one that applies to the definition of anniversaries) are kind of a huge deal, especially when you're a "young adult." You have every right to status update about that! I would even go so far to say that you can brag about half years, too! There's nothing wrong with that. But all the months inbetween, keep yourself together. Only update if your significant other does something particularly awesome (for example, my friend's Berklee student metalhead boyfriend randomly started to quote Lady GaGa lyrics. That's pretty awesome). So let's just dance down to number four!

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4. Stop feeling sorry for your sorrow.
If you actually have average sleep (which is eight hours, a number I envy), you're somewhat conscious about sixteen hours a day. You can't expect all sixteen hours of your day to be fabulous. And while it's probably involuntary to go straight to your status update and cry about whatever made you upset (see above), you probably shouldn't. Updating your status is kind of like contemplating punching someone in the face- give yourself fifteen minutes. If you're still kind of bummed, update. Maybe even ask if anyone will want to talk to you and help you come to terms with whatever degree of bummage you're feeling. But also, don't update constantly about your sadness. While sad stuff sucks a lot, you can't be overbearing to everyone else on your feed. There's people that are just as sad as you are, and seeing your sad posts constantly will make them sadder and there's people that are happy while checking their feeds, and seeing negative posts will kill their buzz. You don't want to be that guy. So update wisely when it comes to sad stuff. And finally...

Please, for the love of God and all that is holy, have a vague idea of the English language when you're updating your status. No StIcKy CaPs. NO Odd WAYZ OF CAPiTALiZiNG. sum vage idee of th englizh languge. And just basic captilization. That's all I ask for.

And there you go! I hope you all take this to heart and apply it to your status updates! I really hope that you'll get more liked statuses and less eyerolls when people Facebookstalk you!

All my love,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm a person just like you, but I've got better things to do.

There's Pepsi in that cup, I swear

If you're a senior in high school and/or a college student, you've probably been on a college tour. They're pretty straightforward- some kid that goes to the school that's in question takes a group of bright-eyed high schoolers and their dutifully notetaking parents around campus while giving a really broad idea of what college life is like. The student that leads the group must be multi-talented, like walking backwards for extended periods of time, wearing tacky polos, and asking a lot of stupid questions.

One question that is always brought up on these tours, usually by a parent with their first kid going to college, is the drinking situation on campus. The student leader usually just smiles and gives the safe, not really lie, of "Oh! Well, not everyone drinks! And we have very strict guidelines if underage drinking occurs!"

Kids that don't go to college, I have to let you in on a little secret: underage drinking occurs. A lot. Drinking in general happens a lot. And I'm not just saying this because I go to Rutgers. Every college that allows alcohol on campus has (underage) drinking going on. There's also people smoking pot behind the buildings, taking painkillers that are not prescribed to them, and making generally bad mistakes.

Of course, it's different going to a college that has alcohol on campus and be a veteran edge kid at the same time.

For those that don't know, straightedge is a lifestyle that originated in the punk scene. The philosophy is pretty simple: don't drink, don't smoke, don't be a whore. Notable straightedgers include the band, Minor Threat, which a lot of people cite as the originators of the movement, Davey Havok from AFI, and that dude that broke edge, Pete Wentz (breaking edge obviously meaning ending your straightedge-ness). While sometimes straightedge kids are self-righteous assholes, we're overall pretty good times.

See? Me being fun times.

Anyway, being straightedge at college isn't really hard. I have a lot of friends that drink and while there's alcohol and they say I can have it, they respect that I don't do it. However, they will use my birthday and personal milestones as an excuse to drink for themselves (I'm pretty sure they're planning a "Donna's done with Accutane!" party soon enough). It's kind of like religion or veganism or whatever- if you really believe in it, you're going to keep up with it. Even if there's an abundance of alcohol, especially when you're a girl and you can get into any frat based on the fact that you wield a vagina. (EDIT: This is in reply to the fact that girls can get into frat parties based on our female-identified status, thanks for pointing that out, anon!)

However, being straightedge in college is definitely different. Initially, I didn't say that I was edge. I didn't really know how people would react. In high school, I didn't party. I'm still that nerdy girl that would rather pass her time with close friends watching bad movies and dancing to nineties pop. So being straightedge was all right in high school. It wasn't weird, because my friends really didn't party either, at least until junior/senior year of high school. So I said I didn't drink and I couldn't drink anyway, because of the acne medication I was on (Accutane messes up your liver function, so you're strongly recommended not to drink while on it). But as the months went by, I began to realize that when my medication was over with... I was totally going to have to just say that I'm not going to be drinking when I'm done with my medication, either.

It felt kind of like coming out again, really. Because it sort of was, I guess. One of my friends proclaimed that when I was done with my medication he was going to get me shitfaced, and I told him, "Uh, no. You're not. I'm straightedge." And he sort of went, "Oh, okay. That's cool." And that's it. Sometimes my friends were a little disappointed when I told them about my status. One of my friends claims that I'd make a fun drunk, which I'm not really sure how I feel about that, but he's content with me being sober and able to make sure the world doesn't end while everyone else is intoxicated.

So, I've realized what us straightedge kids grow up to be: mommies.

It's kind of hilarious, actually. We become designated drivers, soda stealers, and confidants when our friends start to get so drunk they lose their filter. They puke on us, they cry on our shoulders, they try to kiss us unexpectedly, and then we laugh about it later. And what's even more hilarious is that sometimes, we're the only one that really remembers that time that one of our friends started talking to a couch.

I still get invited to drink sometimes, but most of the time, my friends point out how glad they are to have someone that's a little more there than everyone else around, which is kind of cool. I have found my role in my social group. Being straightedge at a party school is totally doable and if people can't handle it, then clearly they shouldn't have been edge in the first place. So to my straightedge brothers and sisters- I raise my red cup of Pepsi and toast to all of you! You all have guts!

And of course, I want to know via comments if you are the straightedge kid, or if you have a straightedge kid in your group, or if you even need one! Speak :D

Sorry the first post is very tame. Whatever. I'll get snarkier as this thing gets more established.

Obligatory Introduction Post

Welcome to the first post of Don't Call Me Donner, a new, random blog about the life of a lowly, queer college student. In here you will find a lot of posts about:

  • Being queer in college (o rly?)
  • Being straightedge at a huge party school
  • Attempting vegetarianism
  • Senseless pop music (Please note that the title of this blog is a play off a lyric from a Lady Ga Ga song)
  • Dressing up like an idiot and attempting to follow an HBIC lifestyle (HBIC=Head Bitch in Charge)
  • Detailed escapades between existing with heteronormal friends and homoabnormal friends
  • Gay/woman's rights-focused musings of the world around this author
  • Concert reviews that are associated with listening to loud music
If you would like to contact me/follow me elsewhere, please see: A site that you can ask me really silly, or really serious questions with the cloak of anonymity.
tumblr- Another blog which is mostly devoted to photos of Adam Lambert, Lady GaGa, and cute animals.
twitter- A proudly made before Twitter was cool account in which I post random 140 bites from my day, including, but not limited to creeping on hot girls on the bus, viewing reactions to award shows, and random @replying to musicians and hoping they'll reply.

I can't wait to get to know you :)